“Lady Bird wanted the highways clear of billboards and junkyards, and filled with green landscaping and wildflowers.”
As I accelerate through my twice-daily commute along Interstate 294, I get a sense that Mrs. LBJ wasn’t particularly successful in her drive to beautify America. The billboards she fought against are the mile markers of my journey. Most times the giant messages pass into my subconsciousness where I keep my mental records.
I know where to expect a Blue Cross/Blue Shield “through it all.” I have counted as Brian Uhrlacher’s hair restoration billboard postings outnumber the total tackles in his Bear’s career. A big red arrow points the way to mortgage refinancing savings, while Wintrust is trying really hard to out-hometown the other guys. And the
strip gentlemen’s clubs advertise what they have always advertised.
As a sign of the times I know who is pushing rapid COVID-19 testing, and who wants me to learn all about marijuana, both medicinal and recreational. Preferably not indulged in while zooming past construction zones and road shoulder stalls.
This month I have noticed a new billboard, a new advertisement asking for an investment of my time and thought as I thunder past. It must be about 650 sq. ft. in size, rising just to the right of the southbound lanes. And it features a silhouette image of a firearm. I am not an expert, but whizzing past, it sure looks like an assault rifle.
I assume the billboard is advertising a gun store, or a shooting range, or some other gun-related enterprise. I don’t care what it is for. It disturbs me and I despise it. I don’t get upset seeing reminders of the health plan I no longer belong to, the hair I can’t grow, or the pot and women that I don’t indulge in–but seeing weapons of mass destruction on my very favorite tollway? It brings tears to my eyes.
In the indeterminate future I will retire. I will not drive past this billboard. Better yet, I can wish the billboard, and the death it portrays, will go away. If only my wishes would come true.
Lady Bird Johnson could have told you rifles don’t beautify highways. She could also have told you how one changed her life.
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